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Biographical sources

The ICAEW Library & Information Service holds an extensive collection of biographical sources that can be used to research the history of individuals, firms and the profession.

Biographical profiles

Biographical profiles of varying length have been published in the accountancy press for chartered accountants and other significant figures in the profession. Some of these profiles have been indexed in the Accountancy Ancestors database.

Autobiographies of chartered accountants

The collection of the ICAEW Library & Information Service holds a number of autobiographies of chartered accountants that provide an insight into the profession throughout the years, covering everything from the description of working in practice in the late 1890s (see Before I forget, 1894-1954 by W A Wolley) to the experiences of working for an accountancy firm in pre-revolutionary Russia (see Russian Interlude by J Kilpatrick).

Most of the autobiographies and biographies in our collection are rare and are only available for reference in the Library. You can view the full listing of biographies in our collection through the Library catalogue.

The extracts below provide an illustration of the fascinating lives captured in our collection.

Alfred Good

A Sporting Chartered Accountant by Alfred Good, Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, London, 1917.

Although liberally interspersed with stories of his fishing, shooting and riding experiences, Alfred Good's book A Sporting Chartered Accountant is set within the context of his business, home and travelling life.

Born in 1826 and writing in 1914 he reflects that ‘As a youngster I fear my religious and political views were loose, and I remember attending lectures … given by an Atheist and Socialist’ (page 4). On the other hand insider dealing was apparently an acceptable part of business life, ‘Before it was generally known I bought a few of the … shares, and ultimately made a good profit on them’ (page 19).

He lived through 5 reigns, the Great Exhibition of 1851, the great comet of 1861, Black Monday of 1866 and the coal famine of 1872, hoping at the end of his book to live long enough to see ‘that this “terrible war” might be over’.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the amount of travel undertaken (Italy, North America, Australia, New Zealand) and the almost unbelievable number of coincidences which lead him to chance upon friends or acquaintances all over the world. He worked in banking, insurance, accounting, receivership and liquidation. At home he mixed with writers, artists, clergy, judges, businessmen and lords, dedicating his book to the Earl of Halsbury. Many aspects of his business life are familiar to us today: the importance of networking, expense accounts, fee disputes, betrayal, the power of advertising and being ‘sold a pup’ when buying transport!

Oh, and a fishing tip for those of you who are anglers: pack your newly caught trout in nettles for the journey home (page 82).

Gérard Van de Linde

Gérard became an ACA in 1880 and his book describes his travels, working life and some of the personalities he met along the way.

In Reminiscences Gérard Van de Linde looks back on his life from 1917 recalling the personalities, travels and business that formed a significant part of his life from 1840 to 1917.

Gérard Van de Linde was elected as an ACA in August 1880 and his book briefly describes the application process (pages 212–213). A separate chapter gives an account of the first Chartered Accountants' Annual Meeting at Sheffield in 1910 (pages 392–398).

Gérard Van de Linde started his career working for the London offices of the Recife and Sao Francisco Pernambuco Railway Company in 1858. In his book Gérard primarily focuses on his travels in Europe and India, whilst covering an eclectic collection of events including the opening of Tower Bridge. The book also details meetings with personalities of the time including Napoleon III and President Jefferson Davis, as well as tales of some of the more memorable audits and business transactions that Gérald was involved with in his career.

The book was published by GEE in 1917 with all proceeds going to the Chartered Accountants' Benevolent Association. The LIS holds a signed copy of the book presented to the Library on 15 August 1917.

Harold Gibson Howitt

The escape of Sir Harold Gibson Howitt (ICAEW President 1945–46) from behind German lines in 1918 was immortalised in the John Buchan novel ‘Mr. Standfast’ (1919). Find out how this event was captured in the novel and in Sir Harold Gibson Howitt's later autobiography.

James Kilpatrick

James Kilpatrick's book ‘Russian Interlude’ records his experiences working for Deloitte in pre-revolutionary Russia against a background of rising political tension.

In Russian Interlude James Kilpatrick has provided an account of the establishment of a Deloitte in Russia in 1913. The author describes his experiences working for the firm in the country until the outbreak of war in August 1914. The account given by Kilpatrick forms an important record of the office as the records of the Russian office were destroyed in an air raid on the city on 10 May 1941 which destroyed their storeroom on London Wall.

It was eventually decided to open an office in St. Petersburg, and having been advised by our lawyer, Dr. Vladimir Idelson, that the name of Deloitte could not be used owing to the fact that it was not permissible under Russian Law for the name of a deceased person to form part of the firm's name, the new partnership was styled Plender, Griffiths, Wyatt & Co.

(Russian Interlude, p7)

Kilpatrick's book provides a vivid picture of life in St. Petersburg and Moscow at this time, his travels around the country and the work that the Russian office carried out. Alongside this story the political events taking place against this backdrop force themselves into Kilpatrick's narration, such as the event described in the extract below.

A member of the London office, E D Job, was in St Petersburg to help with the workload. Whilst at work at an engineering works E.D. Job experienced at first hand the strikes and violence taking place in the country at the time. Kilpatrick describes events:

He was at a window watching the conflict between the Cossacks and the strikers, when some officers detached themselves from the crowd, dashed to the window brandishing their revolvers, and threatened to shoot if he did not close the shutters. Job, of course, did not understand a word of what was being said, but fortunately someone in the room heard what was going on, managed to drag him down from the window and shut the shutters before a shot rang out.

(Russian Interlude, p25)

W. A. Wolley

In Before I forget W A Wolley describes his experiences in accountancy between 1894 and 1954. The author joined Wm. Arthur Smith & Co on 1 August 1894 after his father ‘heard that an office boy was wanted in the office of a Chartered Accountant’.

In his book W A Wolley describes the look and feel of the first practice he worked for:

Each room was lighted with incandescent gas burners. We in our room had high desks and stools, but the other room had a table and several chairs. There was no telephone. Many offices did not boast one, but we had a bell push which would summon a boy messenger who, for a few pence, would carry a letter for about a mile or so.

The course of W A Wolley's book goes on to describe his nightmare early audits, the fears of a Zeppelin raid on his firm's offices during the great war and his later career in the profession.

Interviews

The accountancy press has published interviews with significant figures in the accountancy profession. Some interviews have been indexed in the Library's online catalogue, LibCat, whilst others can be identified using research databases that are available in the Library.

Obituaries

Obituaries of varying length have been published in the accountancy press for chartered accountants and other significant figures in the profession, ranging from articled clerks to presidents. Some of these obituaries have been indexed in the Accountancy Ancestors database.